Scrap The First Officer: Ryanair's O'Leary

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The airline CEO who suggested introducing pay toilets on his aircraft is now saying the right seat in the cockpit should fly empty. Michael O'Leary, the sometimes controversial and always publicity-hungry head of Ryanair, said he advocated abolishing first officers and since he said it to Bloomberg Business Week, it's now being widely reported. "Really, you only need one pilot. Let's take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it," were the exact words. And if the lone pilot can't, for some reason, make sure the computer is doing its job, O'Leary suggested he do what his passengers do when they have a problem and that's call a flight attendant, in this case, one that's been trained to land the aircraft. "If the pilot has an emergency, he rings the bell, he calls her in, she could take over." He apparently wasn't asked if it might make as much sense to make the FO push a snack cart when he or she isn't needed to watch the computer.

As tempting as it might have been to ignore O'Leary's bombast, the British Airline Pilots Association felt compelled to respond. "His suggestion is unwise, unsafe and the public will be horrified," the association said in a statement to Sky News. "Are there no lengths to which he will not go to get publicity?" In addition to the pay toilets idea, O'Leary also once suggested selling standing room on his airliners. The European Aviation Safety Agency rejected the idea.